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Fox Valley Magazine's Interview with One of Illinois Current Longest Serving Mayors

He has been elected to ten consecutive terms.

He has served as Chairman of the Kane/ Kendall Council of Mayors since 1985. In 1996, Mayor Schielke began service as Chairman of the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS) Executive Council of Mayors and has continued in that role as CATS was transformed into the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). This organization oversees metro planning and administration of federal transportation dollars and has proven to be a vital partner in regional transportation progress.

Mayor Schielke was requested by former Speaker of the House, Congressman J. Dennis Hastert to serve as chairman of the Kane/Kendall County Fox River Bridge Citing Commission. This group oversaw the selection of six potential new bridge locations along the Fox, four of which have either now been built or are in planning stages.

In 2002, Mayor Schielke was appointed to represent Kane County on the Pace Suburban Bus Board. He has since been reappointed to this position for four additional four year terms. His current Pace Board term runs until 2022. For a one­ year term running from 2007-2008, Mayor Schielke served as Chairman of the Metropolitan Mayor’s Caucus, an organization of which he is a founding member and continues to serve as an active participant of the Caucus’s Executive Board.

He worked for a number of years as a local journalist covering state and local government and has co-authored over a half dozen published books on topics ranging from local history to the international fire service and is currently a licensed realtor in the state of Illinois. In 2005 Mayor Schielke was named “Citizen of the Year” by the community, the first time the award has been given to a person while holding public office.

Fox Valley Magazine: How many years have you served as Mayor of Batavia

Mayor Schielke: Starting with my first election in April of 1981, I have been elected to 10 consecutive terms of 4 years each as Mayor of Batavia. So far that’s 38 years.

Fox Valley Magazine:  When did you officially become one of Illinois’ current longest serving Mayors?   

Mayor Schielke: The Mayor of downstate Marion, Illinois was the long standing leader of the State’s Mayors having been elected to 14 terms of 4 years each. He recently stepped down and thus myself and several other Mayors moved up to the top longevity positions in our state.

Fox Valley Magazine: Why did you originally decide to run for Mayor of Batavia? 

Mayor Schielke:  In 1981 I was approached by a group of local residents suggesting that I run for the office with the hope that I would take Batavia into a new direction of local government. At that point I had been working as a news reporter for the Kane County Herald newspaper and as a part time employee of radio station WGSB  in St. Charles. I had also worked within the city government as an auxiliary police officer and as a very active member of the paid-on-call force within the Batavia Fire Department.

Fox Valley Magazine: How do you think your service as a firefighter before being elected helped prepare you for office?.

Mayor Schielke: Serving on the fire department was a life changing experience for me. I served during the time when we ran a rescue squad that responded to emergencies with ambulances then based out of Community and Delnor Hospitals. I worked a number of emergency calls and worked a lot of life and death experiences and even had the memorable experience in assisting in a baby delivery on the kitchen floor of a home on the east side. I proudly have a picture of the baby, now an adult, with myself hanging on my office wall at city hall. Shortly after I was elected Mayor, circumstances developed which resulted in creation of a Tri-City fire station based paramedic ambulance program for which I have had the honor of serving as Chairman of the Tri-City Ambulance Board since its creation, now more than 35 years ago.

Fox Valley Magazine: What keeps you motivated after all these years? 

Mayor Schielke: I have had the opportunity of being involved in a wide variety of positive changes in our town. These would include installation of the Fox River Bike Trail network on both banks of the Fox River thru town, the approval of expansions or new construction of five different senior living communities with Batavia, rebuilding the face of downtown which would include a new Wilson Street bridge, restoration of a number of historic buildings including the former Bellevue Place Sanitarium, old Louise White School, old Holy Cross Church on the Wilson Street, regeneration of North River Street into a community space and retail corridor, rebuilding of Houston Street into a focus point of civic events around the Peg Bond Center, total rebuilding and upgrading of both fire stations, working with the park board to rebuild Quarry Park and Peace Bridge project and the library board on the construction of the new library on the site of the old junior and senior high school building and the revitalization of many of the store fronts in downtown. One of my greatest memories was the assembly of talented citizens who stepped up to build the downtown Riverwalk project and enhance the banks of the Fox River thru downtown between 1990 and 1998. 

Fox Valley Magazine: Could you tell us about any proposed and current development projects you are excited about? 

Mayor Schielke: Batavia appears to be in a building boom time at this time We have approved or are reviewing proposals which could add another 700 plus living units to our inventory of housing. Recently we have also experienced a strong interest in moving retail activity into many of the older store fronts found in our downtown business district. There is also activity to bring a very impressive new science project into the life of Fermi Lab on our eastern boundary in coming years. We have also approved an annexation plan with the Loyal Order of the Moose, to allow for 494 acres of the Mooseheart site to be developed in the future as a senior living community surrounded by a large stretch of business activity along Randall Road between Main Street on the north and Mooseheart Road on the south.

Fox Valley Magazine:  What has been the most challenging aspect of being mayor?

Mayor Schielke: Dealing with the ever changing ways of the American experience. New technology, new directions of national political thought, and the stress and strains which come when you live in what has become recognized as one of the most vibrant regions in the United States.

Fox Valley Magazine:   The most rewarding? 

Mayor Schielke: Working within a community where the citizens truly care about their town. The high quality of education offered by our schools, coupled with a long standing commitment for civic pride in public safety services and property maintenance along with great parks and programs, a library admired far and wide throughout the region, and a civic life style that is filled with citizens who truly hold passion for and love their town.

Fox Valley Magazine:  You also have a keen interest in Batavia’s history. Any interesting facts you could share with us about Batavia that our readers might not know? 

Mayor Schielke: Our town’s past is filled with stories that illustrate that events which have occurred here have truly been a unique rendezvous with many of the high profile events found in the greater history of the American story. 

Fox Valley Magazine:  Any idea of when you might retire or not run for another term? 

Mayor Schielke: With a college major in political science, I guess one lesson I learned is that a sitting elected official should never pronounce themselves as one who plans on leaving office too soon as this may well create an inability to get the job done on any remaining goals you may want to attain before taking your name off a future ballot. 

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